So what do you do, when you have a chance to meet your heroes, either fleetingly, or if you’re lucky enough to be in the same room with them for a goodly period of time? You’re in a quandary, there are too many questions unanswered, there’s no time to think. Will I look like a gushing fanboy twit? Can my hero be arsed with the attention after so many years in the spotlight? Will my hero dash my expectations to the ground, because despite all my doubt, deep down I do really really want a word or two from him or her, and gad, they might be too tired, it might be the first few minutes they’ve had to themselves all day, and it might be the eightieth time that day someone’s pestered them, and.. what to do? What to DO? What to SAY?
Well, sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s not, sometimes it’s.. strange.
The night John Hammond supported us
Once upon a time I played in a rather noisy blues band and we got a support gig at the Concorde in Brighton.. the main draw that night was slide guitar wizard John Hammond. We did worry – a tiny bit – we’d be just too loud and far too un-cultured for his discerning audience, but hey, a gig’s a gig. So we did our best to be ‘pro’ and turn up on time and get our gear out of the way ready for the great man.
Who was late. No fault of his own, I might add: his flight was delayed and eventually when he appeared he was shattered, but still had time to spend a few minutes with us, and even share the red wine from his rider. A total gent. And then he gave us a bit of a surprise.
“Guys, I’m fit to drop, so what I’m gonna do is go on first, do my thing, get on off to the hotel for some sleep, and you can entertain the crowd late into the evening. How’s that?”
Whatever you say, Mr. Hammond. So after an hour and a half of his sublime acoustic blues stylings, to tremendous applause, we crashed out our wonky Nine Below Zero and Feelgoods covers to a slightly dwindled, but still reasonably appreciative, audience. The night John Hammond supported us? Well, not quite. But I can confirm he is a lovely chap.
Small chips and a battered sausage please
At university, just round the corner from the student village where we lived there was an ace fish and chip shop, proper big mirrors, old school till, and giant chrome and pastel colour panelled fryers. It was rumoured wrestler Giant Haystacks was a regular visitor, but one night I’d popped round there on my own and barely noticed standing next to another guy at the counter. It was pretty quiet.. we didn’t say anything after ordering, just stood there, lost in our own thoughts. I got my order first, and just glanced in the mirror on the way out. The guy was Pete Shelley.
Should’ve talked to him. Really should have. Damn.
Of all the bars in all the towns in all the world, he walked into.. the one I was in
“Guys.. it’s Neil Young. He’s over there.”
He’d headlined the BDO in Auckland in 2009, and I saw that fine performance. A few days later I was in Adelaide catching up with friends, in a bar in Glenelg. We’d talked to people who were going to the Adelaide leg of the BDO, and all of a sudden, the rock legend that is Mr. Young popped in, tailed by a big guy, maybe one of his touring party. He checked out the tennis score on the big screen (Federer vs Roddick, Aussie Open semi final, I believe)..
And then, as quickly as he had appeared, he left. What do you do?
What I did was leg it out of the bar after him, caught up and said something like “Mr. Young, just wanted to say, thanks for the show in Auckland, it was great.. ” and, well.. um.. yeah. I instantly didn’t want to be any pushier than that, I don’t really do photos, and I dunno, I thought Neil might not be a photo kinda guy. And the big dude with Neil was primed and ready. I wait.
“Uh, yeah, thanks!” he said.
Phew. “Er.. have a good night!” I said, and I scooted back to my friends.
Simultaneously feeling as embarrassed, and as excited, and as dumb, as a ten year old could be. At age 49. Gulp.
“Maybe he was just.. tired?”
Another festival. The greatest opportunity I ever had, gladly taken, to attend the institution that is Coachella (tip of the cap to @krbronson), spawned a few fine tales. Crashing the now defunct Dimples Karaoke Bar in Burbank with the aforementioned pal and a Mighty Lemon Drop to see The Cribs, to name just one. But it’s from the festival itself where my two final star collisions occur.
It’s a big festival, as you know, and when the night ends, there are craploads of people leaving simultaneously. So it’s good to wait until the fuss dies down, so we do. It’s pretty quiet and as we gird our loins for the trip back to the car park, we notice a black clad, fuzzy haired guy, having some quiet time to himself on a sofa. It’s William Reid.
We approach, offer congratulations for JAMC’s set (featuring Scarlett Johansson on Just Like Honey). We shake his hand. He’s definitely enjoyed himself, with a couple or more well-deserved drinks.
All is quiet. He’s quiet. He’s pondering something. So are we.
We depart. It seemed right and proper.
Same festival, different day. Another way to escape the melee at night’s end, which we have observed but not tried, is to convince a security guard to let you out through an exit which provides a shorter route to the car park, but which you are not entitled to use, because you have the wrong wristband. We are not quite far enough up the wristband food chain to use our nearest exit. But we wait, to see if said security guy looks open to.. opening up.. for other punters, before giving it a go ourselves.
There’s a bit of a stir, as then approaches what is obviously a rock and roll entourage. High heels, tight leather, mini skirts and bandanas..
It’s Tommy Lee, and friends. He knows the way to his transport and he’s gonna use it, cos he has the woven wristband of magic power.
A little way back is a dude in a Motley Crue T shirt, who is all at once very excited. “Tommy! My man. Love you guys, love your music.. hello ma’am, hi Tommy. Yes sir, the greatest band I ever saw.” He cuts in to the back of the entourage, smoothly, still talking. But he talks too much. Tommy escorts his friends through the gate.
The guard asks, “He with you?”
Tommy looks. “No.”
The dude’s demeanour changes instantly. “Hey, Tommy! Tommy! F*ck you man, f*ck you. I bought all your records, man, you’re a piece of shit, what did I do? You coulda helped me out.. F*CK!”
The gate closed, and the dude headed off instead to the main exit, still cursing. Oh, we laughed. Sometimes your heroes just don’t live up to your expectations, eh?
Did you ever have a close encounter of the fan kind?